Tag:Ryan Fitzpatrick
Posted on: November 21, 2010 9:32 pm
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Bengals secondary kills chances for win

Cincinnati's fans were not happy after Sunday's loss to Buffalo (US Presswire). Posted by Josh Katzowitz

The Bengals were clicking against the Bills. RB Cedric Benson had racked up big yardage in the first half. QB Carson Palmer looked sharper than he has in recent games. Terrell Owens was making catches against his old team. The defense was scoring points for the offense.

And then suddenly, everything turned.

The Bengals secondary lost starting SS Roy Williams (concussion), starting FS Chris Crocker (knee) and starting CB Johnathan Joseph (ankle). Nickelback Morgan Trent had been placed on IR earlier in the week, and starting CB Leon Hall didn’t look 100 percent healthy either.

And Bills QB Ryan Fitzpatrick took advantage of a secondary that suddenly had to give significant playing time to Rico Murray and Reggie Nelson, completing 21 of 34 passes for 316 yards, four touchdowns, and two interceptions. The big recipient of Fitzgerald’s explosion was WR Steve Johnson, who caught eight passes for 137 yards and three scores.

All of it equaled a Bills team that turned a 28-7 deficit into a 49-31 victory. It’s the second-straight win for a Buffalo team that had been on the verge of turning the corner for several weeks. The Bills finally got their first win last week against the Lions, and today, in the second half, they dominated what has become a horrendous Bengals team in Cincinnati.

Owens pretty much said it all when he told reporters this after the game: "Let me look you in the eyes and emphasize: we are terrible."

And maybe Chan Gailey’s squad isn’t quite as terrible as most of us thought.

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Posted on: November 12, 2010 1:48 pm
 

Hot Routes 11.12.10: Balance for the Jets rushing

Posted by Will Brinson



Got a link for the Hot Routes? Hit us up on Twitter (@CBSSportsNFL).
  • LaDainian Tomlinson's been the story of the Jets rushing attack so far this season (yes, his dominance outweighs how terrible Shonn Greene has been). But the tides could be turning -- Rex Ryan wants to see a "more balanced" split in carries (anticipating about 50 carries a game) between Greene and Tomlinson going forward. RB coach Anthony Lynn points out that Greene -- whose YPC is up near 4.8 in recent games, while Tomlinson's is under 4.0 -- is "built for November, December, January." It makes sense, particularly if the Jets can get some separation in working towards a playoff spot, because there's no reason in wasting LdT during meaningless games of the regular season.
  • How safe is Mike Singletary's job in San Francisco? Tim Kawakami's already putting together a list of potential replacements.
  • Dom Capers, who's killing it with a depleted Green Bay defense this season, isn't inclined to talk about head coaching jobs right now.
  • Joe Flacco believes the Ravens left "a little bit too much time on the clock" for the Falcons Thursday night. This is technically correct, but, and I really hate to agree with Joe Thiesmann here, if you can get six when the Ravens got six, you take the points.
Posted on: November 8, 2010 3:03 am
Edited on: November 8, 2010 3:27 am
 

10 stories that deserve your attention Week 9

Posted by Andy Benoit

1.) The common sense approach for Jerry Jones

Out of principle, I’ve been trying to avoid Dallas Cowboy stories at all costs these past few weeks. I’ve also been buying into the idea of keeping Wade Phillips around for the remainder of the season just because, well, the Collective Bargaining Agreement issues do W. Phillips (US Presswire)complicate matters, and promoting someone from Phillips’ staff to the top position on an interim basis doesn’t pack much punch.

But what happened in Green Bay can’t be ignored. Thus, I’m writing a Cowboys story – an opinionated Cowboys story – that should cover the thousands of other Cowboys stories you’ll read this week. Here it goes:

It would be wrong to say the Cowboys quit Sunday night, as “quitting” would imply they actually got started at some point. The problems for this team are as numerous as they are obvious. Based on the way Jon Kitna seems to be received by teammates, you’d swear Dallas’ 52 other players are all atheists. The only way Kitna could be ignored any further is if Andre Gurode simply stopped snapping him the ball. Beyond Kitna, the running backs appear to be forbidden from pass blocking. The only time Dallas’ defense looks the least bit complex in the presnap phase is when a linebacker or safety lines up in the wrong spot. Cornerback Orlando Scandrick has been particularly awful all season, though at least he hasn’t mortgaged his heart and self respect the way Mike Jenkins has (what kind of tackling effort was that on the James Jones touchdown???).

We could go on forever, but the point is, this team has crossed the threshold of pathetic, and because of that, Jerry Jones needs to fire Phillips. Yes, a head coaching change at this point is complicated, but I’ll take complicated over helpless any day. For the rest of this season, replace Phillips with Dave Campo, a fiery motivator with some head coaching experience. Don’t promote Jason Garrett – he may be just as big a part of the problem. Over these next eight games the former NFL backup quarterback needs to prove he’s still worthy of being an offensive coordinator in this league. The overly-simplistic system, lack of identity in the ground game and inconsistency of key players suggest he’s not. (By the way, have we ever seen a hot young head coaching candidate cool as quickly as Garrett? Those two 6-2 teams playing this Thursday night were both turned down by Garrett at one point.)

The second the game clock reads 0:00 in Week 17, Jones needs to offer a contract to Bill Cowher. Cris Collinsworth made a great point during the broadcast: when the Cowboys have had a no-nonsense disciplinarian head coach (i.e. Jimmy Johnson and Bill Parcells), they’ve prospered; when they’ve had a “players’ coach”, they’ve floundered. Go get Cowher. He’ll instill toughness, he runs a 3-4 scheme and, though maybe not a top echelon personnel guy the way Johnson and Parcells were, he’ll ultimately improve the roster.

Cowher wants to coach; it’s amazing he’s still available after four years. Jones got lucky there. If for some reason Cowher is hesitant to get back in, Jones should offer him $10-12 million a season. He should be willing to give up part of his power, too. Sure, if there’s a lockout, Cowher may not get to instill his modus operandi on the team until August, which would be a problem. But that problem pales in comparison to the one that is the status quo.



2.) Childress sets a new standard for buzz kill
B. Favre (US Presswire)
We’ve all made a joke that falls painfully flat. It’s a terrible feeling. The ensuing silence makes the air around you feel thick, and when you try to backtrack or play it off, the nightmare only intensifies. No matter what your politics, in that moment you find yourself marveling at the courage it must take for someone like Vice President Joe Biden to face the world every day.

Biden at least specializes in the foot-in-mouth variety of failed jokes. That’s the harmless kind. The other kind of failed joke is the one that derives from spite and pettiness. The room falls silent on these jokes because everyone knows that there is an uncomfortable hint of truth behind it. That’s what happened when Brad Childress said in his postgame press conference, “I'm not going to stand here like Brett Favre and tell you I need compassion, I need a hug. I'm all right."

(Crickets)

Why – why?! – say that? Now, instead of talking about how Favre threw for a career-high 446 yards and led an incredible two-touchdown comeback in the final four minutes against Arizona, we’re talking about how the quarterback and head coach still don’t like each other.

And it’s not just the Favre storyline that takes a backseat. Percy Harvin played on a bad ankle and was fantastic (nine catches, 126 yards). Adrian Peterson (15 carries, 81 yards and a touchdown, plus four catches, 63 yards and another touchdown) showed late in the game why he has reclaimed his spot as the league’s best running back. Jared Allen, with 2.5 sacks and six hits on Cardinals quarterback Derek Anderson, quieted all his naysayers (which even those naysayers were glad about, considering everyone agrees that Allen is a great guy and fun to root for). If the Vikings beat the Bears next week, they’ll welcome the Packers to the Metrodome in Week 11 with a chance to get within one game in the NFC North.

THESE are the storylines that should be highlighted this week. But thanks to Chilly’s chill-hearted joke, we get another week of drama in Minnesota.

3.) What the Hillis happened in Cleveland?

You wonder if the Trap Game is simply a law of nature. If any team would be immune to it, it’d be the Patriots. But sure enough, with showdowns against the Steelers and Colts on the horizon, Bill Belichick’s team came out flat as board Sunday in Cleveland. It was apparent right from the start that the Trap Game law was in affect. Trailing 3-0, rookie tight end Rob Gronkowski signaled for a fair catch on the ensuring kickoff, then, for some reason, though “eh, never mind”, and let the ball bounce to the turf. After a scrum, the Browns came away with possession, leaving a short field for football’s new giant-killer, Colt McCoy (actually, the tongue is not ALL THE WAY in cheek calling McCoy a “giant killer”, considering that the rookie is 2-1 as a starter and has beaten the Patriots and Saints).

New England’s socialistic ball control offense never came close to mustering enough firepower for a comeback. The story of the day, however, was on the other side of the ball. Fullback turned tailback Peyton Hillis rushed for a career-high 184 yards and two touchdowns on 29 carries. He also caught three passes for 36 yards. By now, you’ve probably heard about eight or nine different people refer to the 240-pounder from Arkansas as a battering ram. Indeed, Hillis seems to perk up at the point of contact.

The Browns have a meat and potatoes offense and, thanks in large part to Rob Ryan, one of the best-coached defenses in the NFL. The talk about Eric Mangini getting fired is clearly preemptive. Credit Mike Holmgren for giving the one-time wundercoach a vote of confidence over the past several months. Mangini is capitalizing on the tough lessons he learned early in his career.



4.) Poor BillsR. Fitzpatrick (US Presswire)


It’s hard to feel sorry for a professional football team, but goodness, how can you not want to see the Bills get off the snide? After back-to-back overtime losses, Chan Gailey’s club went to Canada to clear its mind and play before a crowd that, we’re guessing, literally does not know how to boo. (By the way, only 50,746 people showed up for the game, which is fine with the Bills, as they’ve already been paid $78 million for the whole Canadian home games arrangement. The Rogers Communications executives, on the other hand, aren’t thrilled with the low attendance, though they recently said they’d like to extend the deal past 2012. In fact, they might even try to negotiate with the Buffalo community an even split for Bills home games, which means the Bills would become the divorce children of the NFL.)

Aside from two interceptions and a few ground balls, Ryan Fitzpatrick played well Sunday. So did his new favorite receiver, Steve Johnson. The third-year pro from Kentucky surprisingly won the starting job opposite Lee Evans in training camp. After catching 11 passes for 145 yards against the Bears, Johnson leads the Bills with 30 receptions for 409 yards on the season. He’s a humble, try-hard guy, which makes him an embodiment of this entire club.

But this is still a club that fell three points short Sunday. Since a city change didn’t do the trick for the Bills, how about a temporary name change? Given this team’s heart and tenacity, I propose the Buffalo Anti-Cowboys.



5.) Charlie Whitehurst makes his debut; quarterback controversy in Seattle?


Hahaha, uh, no. Let’s move on.



6.) Colts-Eagles…..annoying?

The Colts are 5-3. The Eagles are 5-3. The Eagles just beat the Colts. That means the Eagles should be above the Colts in the power rankings, right? Sure – whatever, we can have that debate later in the week.

Regarding Sunday’s Colts-Eagles game itself, I can’t get over how maddeningly choppy this game was. Did anyone else notice the utter lack of rhythm? It was one of those games where you have to keep checking the top of your television screen because you can’t remember what the score is and you have absolutely no idea how much time is left in the quaA. Collie (US Presswire)rter.

Forget trying to sort out what, exactly , happened in this game – at the end of it, all I could think about was how pissed off the hardcore 60 Minutes fans must have been. The 60 Minutes announcement – you know, the “For those of you expecting to see 60 Minutes, you’re watching the NFL on CBS. 60 Minutes will be seen in its entirety immediately following this game, except on the West Coast, where it can be seen at its regularly scheduled time” – is something we’ve all come to associate with the ending of what are usually exciting games But when Jim Nantz read the CBS announcement during this game, there was still 13:47 left in the fourth quarter. Thus, the 15 million or so people who plan their Sunday evenings around the news magazine program had to wait 40 minutes for their show. And you know the type of person who is hardcore 60 Minutes fan is also the type of person who thinks football is a ridiculous waste of time. Those people had to be seething waiting for this choppy game to end.

Why was this game so choppy? For one, it was loaded with injuries, including a scary one for Colts receiver Austin Collie that delayed the action for several minutes. (More on this shortly.) Two, the game began with a 62-yard run by LeSean McCoy and an interception by Asante Samuel. This gave the Eagles 10 quick points, which many people did not notice because a couple of the early window games were still finishing up. Thus, when you finally got into watching the game, you instantly felt behind. Finally, Peyton Manning was brilliant at times, but he threw 21 incompletions. That’s a lot of clock stoppages.

If you were to go back and edit out some of the commercials and obnoxious (and scary) injuries from this game, you’d see that it was actually a pretty good contest. A few key notes:

***Michael Vick was every bit as superb as his numbers suggest. Vick was 17/29 for 218 yards and a touchdown, along with 74 yards and another touchdown on 10 runs. You forget how much more fun football is when Number 7 is a star.

***The Eagles were able to get pressure on Manning, sacking him three times and forcing him to redefine his pocket on several occasions.

***Jacob Tamme will be claimed in every fantasy football league across America this week (if he wasn’t already). Dallas Clark’s replacement posted Dallas Clark-like numbers Sunday: 11 catches, 108 yards and a touchdown. The surprisingly-lithe third-year pro was targeted 17 times.

***Jim Caldwell made a mistake in the way he utilized his timeouts on Philly’s final drive. Caldwell should have used his first timeout after DeSean Jackson’s 11-yard run on the drive’s first play. Instead, Caldwell used his timeout after Philly’s next first down play. His thinking was, he’d then still have a timeout to use after the second down play and third down play. That’s exactly what happened, so all was well. But Caldwell still should have used his timeout right away. If you need to save clock, then start saving clock ASAP. If Indy had, say, recovered a Philly fumble on the second down play, they would have had 40 seconds more left on the clock. The odds of that scenario playing out are small, yes, but they’re still greater than zero.

***Regarding the hit on Austin Collie, it’s understandable that the Eagles disagreed with the personal foul call. It wasn’t a helmet-to-helmet shot, and it’s debatable whether Collie was even defenseless anyway. That said, some of the Eagles could have shown more respect in arguing the call while Collie was still down. Upon seeing the replay on the big board, Asante Samuel jumped up and down and actually ran around Collie’s motionless body on his way to getting in an official’s face. Come on, Asante.



7.) Indy’s uniformsP. Manning (US Presswire)

Jim Nantz noted that the Colts wore throwback uniforms for only the second time in franchise history. It’s kind of hard to wear throwbacks when your current uniforms are basically already throwbacks. It doesn’t get much blander that then blue and white in Indianapolis. Given that they employ the most marketable player in the league, it’s actually amazing the Colts have not done some modern redesign to their jersey and brand. Yes, the horseshoe logo and understated color scheme has tradition, but most of that tradition is tied up in Baltimore. (And the people of Baltimore hate the Colts anyway.)

The only other time the Colts have worn throwbacks was Thanksgiving ’04 at Detroit. Those uniforms were basically the same as the modern unis, except that the white helmet had the horseshoe on the back, not the side. The significance here is that those helmets were white. On Sunday, Indy’s helmets were blue. Why does that matter? Because, ostensibly, this marked the first time in Peyton Manning’s entire football career that he took the field for a meaningful contest in a helmet that wasn’t white. Manning has worn a white helmet as a Colt. He wore a white helmet at Tennessee, and his Isidore Newman high school team wore white helmets. Sunday, he got to wear blue.



8.) No joke by The Bay

The Raiders are for real, given that reality in this case is a solid but not spectacular 5-4 record. Winners of three-straight for the first time since 2002, Oakland held the first-place Chiefs to just 104 yards on the ground. Coming into the game, Kansas City had rushed for over 200 yards in each of its previous three outings.

Fourth-round rookie Jacoby Ford (2010 Scouting Combine best 4.28 forty time) had six catches for 148 yards, including two crucial long grabs late over the middle right in front of Chiefs star corner Brandon Flowers. (Give credit to Jason Campbell, who on both plays showed fantastic pocket poise and accuracy.) Ford also took the second half opening kickoff back 94 yards for Oakland’s first score.

There were plenty of unusual interruptions in this game due to confusion among the officials. Jeff Triplett crews are usually great crews, but every once in a while Triplett and his men will have a few bumbling moments. One hiccup came on the overtime coin toss. The Chiefs called heads and won, but Richard Seymour thought they called tails. This wasn’t nearly as bad as the Jerome Bettis-Phil Luckett ’98 Thanksgiving game, but still, the NFL could put an end to this silly risk of coin toss controversy by having the home team always be heads and the away team always be tails. What’s the point of having players call heads or tails?



9.) Fine, I missed an extra point; so Suh me!
N. Suh (US Presswire)
Do not let anyone tell you that the difference in the Jets-Lions game wound up being Ndamukong Suh’s missed extra point. Football is way too complex for that. If Suh makes that third quarter extra point, the Lions are up 14-10, rather than 13-10, which changes the play-calling and, subtly, the mindset of everyone involved. It would have been a totally different game; who knows how it would have played out?

The difference, or differenceS, in the Lions-Jets game were Matthew Stafford’s shoulder injury (it’s very concerning just how easily that part of his body gets hurt), LaDainian Tomlinson’s six catches for 47 yards (seemingly all of which came at a convenient time for the Jets), Santonio Holmes’ big 52-yard catch-and-run in overtime (amazing how significant one missed tackle can be, huh?) and Darrelle Revis’ All-World performance against Calvin Johnson (the Lions star receiver caught one pass for 13 yards and was targeted just four times).

The Jets have some work to do offensively, but the good teams find ways to win even when they’re not clicking on all cylinders.

10.) Quick Hits

***Sticking with Lions-Jets, I wish someone would force Jahvid Best to change his number. Tiny running backs with explosive speed and quickness shouldn’t wear 44, it just doesn’t look right.

***As expected, the smashmouth Falcons were able to run the ball down the Bucs’ throats all afternoon Sunday. Michael Turner had 24 carries for 107 yards and two touchdowns.

***In his first game back since suffering a week 6 concussion, Falcons cornerback Dunta Robinson did not look at all eager to stick his nose in there and be physical. Not saying the Falcons have another Bryan Scott situation on their hands (remember Bryan Scott, the rising safety for Atlanta who got a concussion and, for the next year or two, was noticeably afraid of contact?). But Robinson’s lack of aggressiveness was plain to see.

***This seems like a perfect segue into ripping Mike Jenkins one more time for his pathetic tackling effort (or non-effort) on the James Jones touchdown. Seriously Mike. What. Was. THAT?

***Nate Burleson got flagged for celebrating a touchdown by kicking the ball into the stands a few weeks ago. When he scored Sunday, Burleson did a wind up to boot the ball again, only this time he intentionally missed it. Clever. (P.S. Burleson had seven catches for 113 yards this game.)

***How about Ray Rice racking up 97 yards on seven receptions?

***Safety Chris Harris spent some time at linebacker for the Panthers. It’s a little surprising they didn’t try him at quarterback.

***When was the last time we saw two teams score fumble recovery touchdowns on kickoff coverage on the same day? Talk about the ultimate lucky touchdown. The Cardinals got one from Michael Adams and the Packers got one from Nick Collins on a fumble that would have been ruled down by contact if the Cowboys had been able to challenge.

***Hope you enjoyed watching Nick Collins, by the way, because if the NFL is true to its word about cracking down on illegal hits, the Packers safety should be suspended a game for his shot on Roy Williams. That hit was almost as egregious as Brandon Meriweather’s hit on Todd Heap. (True, Meriweather was not suspended, but that was likely only because the hit occurred the week before the NFL issued the harsher punishment for violating the rule.)

***I didn’t watch the Chargers-Texans game, but in seeing the highlights and scanning the box score, it’s looking like I might have to learn how to say the name Seyi Ajirotutu. Dammit all.


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Posted on: October 25, 2010 3:26 am
Edited on: October 25, 2010 3:13 pm
 

10 stories that deserve your attention Week 7

Posted by Andy Benoit

1. Favre Favre Favre Favre Favre

Two things about the Brett Favre hoopla:

a.) You like it. Even if you’re part of the vocal majority that loves to groan about how much you don’t like it, deep down you really do like it. Or, in the very least, you like that you don’t like it. You like that you can pretend to be above it all. But you’re not. None of us are. That’s why we all watched with keen interest Sunday night. B. Favre (US Presswire)

b.) As someone who loves the Favre hoopla, I’ll admit that it does distract from all the other storylines. That’s why we’ll take this opportunity to acknowledge those storylines here. They include…

**The Vikings are now 2-4 and go on the road to face the Patriots next week. Thus, we can crank up the “Is it all over in Minnesota?” talk again this week. It will take about 24 hours for that storm to gather, but make no mistake: it’s coming.

**Those of us who decided Chris Johnson is a better running back than Adrian Peterson may have to reconsider. Johnson was the better running back in 2009. But in 2010, Peterson is averaging an NFL-best 114 yards per game on the ground. Each of his 131 yards against the Packers was a testament to the very concept of manhood. In his fourth season, Peterson has improved in all of his areas of weakness. His fumbles have disappeared. He’s shown more awareness in blitz pickup (did you see the block he had on the Visanthe Shiancoe touchdown that was ruled not a touchdown but probably should have been ruled a touchdown?). And he’s a factor in the passing game (two crucial catches for 41 yards Sunday night, and he was averaging three catches per game coming into Week 7).

**I’m not going to issue a full mea culpa on my Matchup breakdown for a second consecutive week, though I will say the Vikings offensive line performed much better than expected. John Sullivan is finally healthy at center, which stabilizes things at least a bit. Bryant McKinnie had one of his better games of the season (his name wasn’t called once against the Packers). That said, Sullivan and McKinnie still cannot be fully counted on week in and week out.

**I will actually issue a mea culpa to Anthony Herrera. He played so well Sunday night, particularly in generating movement to the left as a run-blocker – than whatever criticism I laid on him last Friday has been rendered moot (or just plain incorrect) for at least the next two weeks.

**Bernard Berrian is a shell of his former self. If a person were to lose weight with the same speed and decisiveness that Berrian has lost confidence, we’d give him or her a pamphlet about eating disorders.

**For the past four months or so, Paul Charchian of KFAN and I have had an on-going debate about Jared Allen. My stance: Allen is a top five defensive end. Charch’s stance: Allen, in the past year and a half, has become overrated as a pass-rusher, and he only turns in major production against inferior competition.

The Packers deliberately game-planned for veteran left tackle Chad Clifton to block Allen one-on-one Sunday night. Clifton easily shut Allen out. I haven’t conceded the debate to Paul just yet, but in our next few email exchanges, my arguments will at least be ending in more periods and fewer exclamation points.



2. Prognosticators, just quit now

In this week’s preview podcast, Will Brinson and I clumped the Saints-Browns, Ravens-Bills and Broncos-Raiders game into one quick segment that lasted all of 10 seconds. We didn’t feel it was worth spending part of our 30 minutes previewing these games because the outcomes, we figured, were predetermined.

As it turns out, Drew Brees threw four interceptions, two of them resulting in scores to David Bowens, and the Saints were never really even in it against the Browns. (When you consider that the Steelers are visiting the Big Easy next Sunday for a nationally televised Halloween night showdown between the past two Super Bowl champions, it’s obvious that this was a classic trap game. Why did we not at least recognize that before!?)

The Bills, facing a stingy Ravens D and led by a Harvard quarterback whose three greatest attributes – heart, grit and guts – are euphemisms for his overwhelming lack of talent, generated 506 yards of total offense (or, in Buffalo terms, “a half season of offense”). If not for a Hall of Fame play by Ray Lewis in overtime (the strip fumble of Shawn Nelson), we might not be describing the Bills as “the league’s last winless team”.

By the way, regarding that strip fumble, what a poor sequence of events for Bills center Geoff Hangartner. The play would have almost certainly been blown dead on forward progress had Hangartner not come in and pushed Nelson and the pile forward for a few extra yards (it was during those extra yards that Lewis stripped the ball). Can’t fault the veteran captain Hangartner for the extra effort, though. Nineteen times out of 20, an effort play like that pays off. But you CAN fault Hangartner for exacerbating the mess by slamming his helmet on the ground afterwards. That resulted in a 15-yard penalty to help put the Ravens in range for Billy Cundiff’s game-winning field goal. D. Bowens (US Presswire)

Finally, regarding the Broncos-Raiders game: nothing much to say, other than the Broncos apparently talked among themselves about the league’s new emphasis on illegal hits and decided, just to be safe, they wouldn’t hit any opponent under any circumstance Sunday afternoon.

That obviously included Darren McFadden, the Raiders’ third-year running back who is finally coming into his own. Credit Oakland for using McFadden more to his strengths this season. He is not a physical runner, and he does not have agile hips and power to press a hole and consistently move the chains inside. McFadden does, however, have the acceleration and breakaway speed to be a force in space, which is why the Raiders have taken to running him off tackle and on halfback tosses more often. After his career-high 165-yard, four-touchdown performance Sunday, McFadden is averaging 111 yards per game on the ground, second best in the NFL.

So the Browns pound the Saints, the Bills take the Ravens to the limit and the Raiders, behind 328 yards rushing, hang 59 points on the Broncos. It’s the NFL; those of you who can guess what I’m going to say next, don’t worry – I have too much respect for CBSSports.com readers to use clichés about parity and “any given Sunday”. I’ll just say, good action, fun games.



3. Picked!

Let’s stay with the Browns-Saints game for a second so that we can talk about David Bowens. Yes, it’s impressive for any player to return two interceptions for touchdowns in the same game. (Bowens is the first Brown to do it since Bob Franklin in 1960.) More impressive is that Bowens, 33, is a former defensive lineman turned linebacker. But even MORE impressive is how he celebrated both scores. On the first TD, Bowens leaped and performed somewhat of a Pas de Chat while crossing the goal-line (it’s a ballet term – use your Wikipedia). As gracefulness goes, it was about a seven.

On his second score, Bowens came to nearly a complete stop before somersaulting across the goal-line. The gracefulness of that was a one-and-a-half, maybe a two. But the cleverness? A 10. Best of all was the half-second of reluctance the ref showed before signaling touchdown on that play. You just know he wanted to flag Bowens for taunting. But thankfully, it was during live action, and this is not college, so he couldn’t. (Don’t worry, purists, the NFL will probably make somersault touchdowns a suspendable offense within in the next few days.) Bowens had just one career touchdown coming into this game. Major props to him for having the presence of mind (and gall) to come up with two original celebrations on the fly like that.

In all, there was a record nine pick-six’s on the day Sunday. (I’m sure I’m the only one who cares, but for what it’s worth, when I first heard this, I was able to immediately remember/visualize eight of those pick-six’s; out of pride, I refuse to look up the one I’m forgetting.) One of those pick-six’s was turned in by DeAngelo Hall. Hall’s 92-yard interception return was just one of his four – FOUR! – second-half interceptions.

That’s a great accomplishment. And, quite frankly, it couldn’t have happened to a more obnoxious guy. Hall had a great game, but poor Jim Haslett now has to deal with the even-more-inflated ego of a cornerback who has no problem publicly demanding a bigger role in the defense or questioning the scheme.
D. Hall (US Presswire)
I hate to be negative about Hall when he’s just had the game of his life, but a week ago experts were saying that the film was revealing the slight diminishments in his speed. Hall’s man coverage technique can be iffy, and his tackling – though excellent against the Bears – is generally poor. I bring this up only because you’re going to be offered an awful lot of DeAngelo Hall Kool-Aid this week.



4. Da Bears

While we’re on the topic of Hall and this game…

Bears fans, I assume, will have no problem this week if I go ahead and point out that their team is still a mess offensively. No need to rehash everything here. We all know the Bears aren’t running the ball worth a cent right now (the debate is whether you blame Matt Forte, Mike Martz, the offensive line or all three). The pass protection has been poor – unless, for some reason, you consider blowing simple assignments a key asset, in which case the pass protection has been superb. Guard Chris Williams was particularly shaky Sunday.
Finally, there’s the standard Jay Cutler scrutiny. Cutler made some spectacular strong-armed throws in this game, but he’s not the type of quarterback who can thrive when players around him aren’t performing. Thus, if the blocking doesn’t get better and receivers like Devin Hester and Johnny Knox don’t become more consistent in their technique, the Bears will only continue to flounder. It wasn’t until just over four minutes to play in the third quarter against Washington that Cutler ended an 0/28 drought on third down.



5. A lesson for the kids: it’s okay, maybe even good, to get in fights

Sorry, but what else can you deduce here? Kenny Britt gets in a bar fight at 1:45 Friday morning. It isn’t his first off-field incident, so the NFL could wind up suspending him soon. With this dark cloud hanging overhead, Jeff Fisher benches Britt for the first quarter against the Eagles. All Britt does is go on to set a Titans franchise record (not Oilers, just Titans) with 225 yards receiving. He also scored three touchdowns. All this just days after getting in trouble. Coincidence…or pure genius?

Actually, Jeff Fisher says coincidence. "His performance has absolutely nothing to do with what happened [Friday], OK? Absolutely nothing," Fisher told reporters after the game. "It was a great performance. I mean, an outstanding performance. It is two separate issues right now."

Fisher may further punish the second-year pro once he learns more details of the fight. Britt is probably rooting for that, as a punishment from Fisher would likely mean he wasn’t punished by the NFL or Nashville authorities (which could still happen).

Britt has now caught a touchdown in five straight games. However, prior to Sunday, he had only topped 45-yard receiving mark once. (You didn’t know 45 yards was a mark, did you?)



6. The NFC’s best wide receiver

Larry Fitzgerald used to hold this title. But through no fault of his own, that title is now out on loan until the Cardinals get a real quarterback. (Looks like they could be going back to Derek Anderson now that Max Hall, who left the loss at Seattle with a head injury, has had a fair chance to show everyone why he wasn’t drafted.)

With Fitzgerald gone, the best wideout in the NFC is Roddy White. (Sorry, Miles Austin fans.) Entering Week 7, White led the conference in receptions and yards. His 11-catch, 201-yard performance against the Bengals only wR. White (US Presswire)idened his lead. If you were to put White’s six-year career on a line graph, it would come out looking a lot like Facebook’s traffic numbers over that time. The former first-round pick has progressed in each season as a pro.

This week, White made no bones about wanting to steal the spotlight from Terrell Owens and Chad Ochocinco. He even starred in his own homemade trash-talking video. On Sunday, he backed it up, proving to be an elite vertical threat, underrated possession target and vastly underrated run-blocker (White’s not Hines Ward, but he’s close.). Most noteworthy is how White bounced back with a touchdown and two-point conversion after Adam Jones ripped the ball away from him in the third quarter for what seemed to be a momentum-shifting 59-yard fumble return for a score.

White was the main reason Atlanta won Sunday, though also give credit to Michael Turner and his downhill tackle-breaking abilities. Turner, capitalizing on Atlanta’s offensive line beating Cincy’s defensive line for most of the day, racked up 121 yards and two touchdowns on 23 carries.



6B. On that note….what’s the deal with Cincy?

The Bengals, meanwhile, have Dallas Cowboys Syndrome: talented team that plays well on paper, but at the end of the day, somehow still loses. Carson Palmer was a surgeon, throwing for 412 yards and orchestrating a hurry-up offense that took advantage of Atlanta’s fairly rudimentary zone scheme. Cedric Benson was phenomenal in setting up his blocks and creating his own space (his 70 yards on 20 carries don’t accurately illustrate his performance). The Bengal defense was poor, but the offense overcame that in the third quarter, going up 25-24 after trailing 24-3 at the half.

So what gives? Hard to say without studying the film. But we do know, on the surface, the Bengals, like the Cowboys, have a very hands-on owner, a head coach with tenuous job security (Marvin Lewis is in the final year of his contract) and a bunch of talented individuals but no clear cut leader (admittedly, I’m a little uneasy implying here that Palmer isn’t a leader – but that’s a whole other discussion best saved for another time).



7. It could be worse

The San Diego Chargers were out to prove to the world Sunday just why they’re a legit 2-5 team. The Chargers had three turnovers (it was actually four, but Philip Rivers’ interception to Devin McCourty was essentially the same as a 36-yard punt, so we won’t count it), including Richard Goodman and Jacob Hester fumbles that truly embodied the term “giveaway”. K. Brown (US Presswire)

After making his first career catch, the undrafted rookie Goodman went to the ground, wasn’t touched but, thinking the play was over, let go of the ball. "I'll be the first one to admit that it was my fault," Goodman said afterwards. "I've got to learn from my mistakes. After making that catch, I've got to give it back to the ref." (Since he wants to learn from the mistake, someone should probably tell the poor guy exactly what the mistake was: it’s not about handing the ball to the ref, it’s about making sure you’re actually down). Hester’s fumble is a little harder to criticize, as even the Patriot players thought it was an incomplete forward pass. The man who should get credit for the recovery is Pepper Johnson, New England’s defensive line coach who was standing on the sideline and shouting at his oblivious players to jump on the loose ball.

The two gimme fumbles were costly, though not costly enough to prevent the Chargers from attempting a game-tying field goal in the closing seconds. Kris Brown, who was signed to fill in for injured Pro Bowler Nate Kaeding earlier in the week, would have had a 45-yard attempt if not for a Louis Vasquez false start. After that penalty moved the Chargers back five yards, Brown’s 50-yard boot hit the right upright. Mind you, this came after Brown’s second errant pooch kickoff of the day went out of bounds (his first errant pooch kick hit a Patriot and came out looking like a horrendous onside attempt). The Chargers also missed a few tackles on a 34-yard Julian Edelman punt return that helped set up a Patriots field goal to end the first half.

To be fair, the Chargers did get a great special teams play when they recovered a surprise onside kick in the fourth quarter. But in the end, turnovers, special teams errors and a few penalties cost Norv Turner’s club. (This is a sentence that could have been copied and pasted from any number of previous 2010 Chargers stories.)



8. Kudos to FOX studio analysts

Normally I wouldn’t do this, but the FOX studio analysts deserve acknowledgement for their late shift Sunday. They didn’t have to stay any later than usual, but they did have to stick around and do a halftime show for the Cardinals-Seahawks game, even though that was the lone late window contest on FOX. That must have been rough. Think about it: only the states of Arizona, Alaska, Oregon, Washington, Idaho and parts of Montana, Kansas, and tiny parts of Florida and Ohio, got that game. This means FOX’s big dogs spent an entire afternoon at work just so they could talk for two or three minutes about what amounted to a locally televised contest. How tempting must it have been for Curt, Terry, Howie, Michael and Jimmy to simply record a generic halftime report at the end of the early window games so that they could just head out and enjoy the rest of the NFL action from the comfort of their living or hotel room?



9. Being an American pig

Call me jingoistic, but I’m glad the British are getting an absolute clunker of a game next week (the 1-6 Niners face the 2-5 Broncos in London). I know I’m not doing myself any favors with the folks at 280 Park Avenue by saying this, but I can’t stand the NFL sharing any part of its regular season with our friends across the pond.

We have our football and they have theirs. If we share ours, they’re going to eventually realize how boring theirs is. Then they’ll be clamoring for more and more of ours, and the league will oblige because, dammit, it’s a business and there’s money to be made. Before we know it, we’ll be forking over a significant piece of our great American sport.

Is this fear talking? You bet. But the football gods don’t want the NFL to go international, either. That’s why they’ve done their best to make the Broncos-Niners game as unattractive as possible. What’s funny is that the 49er fans who have been chanting for David Carr over Alex Smith may actually get their wish, but they won’t get to see it because the Niners’ home game won’t be in Candlestick.

And on the subject of chanting for the backup quarterback…if you were one of the Bronco fans chanting for Tim Tebow in the first half Sunday, you’re a moron. Kyle Orton, like the rest of the Broncos, was not good against the Raiders. But he’s nowhere remotely close to deserving a benching.



10. Quick Hits


**Josh Freeman has now led two game-winning drives in the closing seconds of a fourth quarter (vs. Rams and vs. Bengals). The Bucs are 4-2 and, according to Raheem Morris, the best team in the NFC (insert laugh track audio here).M. Williams (US Presswire)

**Marshawn Lynch (24 carries, 89 yards) looks a little trimmer than I remember. He’s proving to be a very solid pickup for the Seahawks.

**For the second straight week, Seattle’s Mike Williams set a career-high for receptions (10 last week, 11 this week). Williams has incredibly strong hands and, for a 6’5”, 235-pounder, uncanny body control.

**The Jaguars’ biggest problem remains their tendency to give up big plays. Dwayne Bowe (two touchdowns) proved this, as did Thomas Jones and Jamaal Charles.

**For what it’s worth, Devin Hester cut his dreadlocks. He also had zero punt returns Sunday because the Redskins wisely refused to kick anywhere near him.

**It came in a losing effort, but Israel Idonije had a terrific game for the Bears. He was a big reason why Donovan McNabb was uncharacteristically off kilter.

**The Redskins have scored 17 points or less in all four of their wins this season. This is remarkable considering they entered Sunday with, technically speaking, the league’s 32nd-ranked defense.

**It was surprising to hear that Roger Goodell actually called James Harrison this week.

**Even if this is only Quick Hits, I refuse to mention anything specific about the Panthers-49ers game.

**Imagine if the Chargers had won – then we’d all have to recycle the “Belichick going for it on fourth down” debate. Glad we don’t. (Though in case we do, my stance: it was absolutely the right call, just like last time; the problem on this particular play was BenJarvus Green-Ellis not trusting his blocks and bouncing it outside, where end/linebacker Antwaun Applewhite, who had a marvelous game, made the play.


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Posted on: October 24, 2010 3:53 pm
 

The Ravens have missed Ed Reed

Posted by Josh Katzowitz

Count the return of Ravens FS Ed Reed as an unmitigated success.

Baltimore’s most-important defensive back – one of the most important players on his team – made his 2010 debut after he came off the Physically Unable to Perform list this week following offseason hip injury. He looked like he hadn’t missed any time at all. Entering the fourth quarter, he’s recorded two interceptions and a forced fumble.

The rest of the secondary has struggled today against Buffalo’s Ryan Fitzpatrick, but Reed has been a steadying force. After his second pick, though, he went to the locker room limping a bit.

With backup Tom Zbikowski out with a heel injury, the Ravens briefly turned to Haruki Nakamura to play FS before Reed returned to the game.

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Posted on: October 21, 2010 10:17 pm
 

Thurman Thomas talks Bills, Spiller, big hits

Posted by Will Brinson

Thurman Thomas, former Bill superstar and NFL Hall of Famer, joined the CBSSports.com Football Podcast on Thursday to talk about the Bills' current situation (it can't be summed up any differently, although Thomas provides some nice insight into how early the Bills might draft a quarterback in 2011 -- hint: EARLY), as well as the possibility that C.J. Spiller could be Buffalo's next feature back.

While we had him on the line, we also discussed the NFL's new policy on big hits (he's got a fairly amusing take on why we should blame quarterbacks too), LaDainian Tomlinson's change of scenery (you may recall Thomas played a season with the Dolphins before retiring) and the big crop of running backs up for vote in Canton during the next induction (Thomas is also working with FansChoice.com, where fans can give input into a voting process that typically excludes the layman).

Hit play below to check it out and don't forget to Subscribe via iTunes.

If you can't view the podcast, click here to download.

Posted on: October 15, 2010 8:31 am
 

What's the deal with 'players only meetings'?

Posted by Andy Benoit

The Buffalo Bills might somehow be even worse than their 0-5 record suggests. Two days removed from a home loss to the Jaguars and heading into what will be their first non-losing Sunday of the season (their bye week), linebacker Reggie Torbor called one of those “players only” meetings we hear so much about.

A few things here…

1. You know how players only meetings go: whatever is said doesn’t leave the room. So, that in mind, take a look at the blue box below. Mark Gaughan of the Buffalo News asked some players about the meeting. None of them said anything of substance (of course). But look how long their responses were! Gaughan actually took the time to type it all out. That’s admirable considering he had to have known he was getting “say nothing” quotes. The least we can do is reward the hard work (if you are so inclined to read the quotes, take a look at the blue box below).

2. Instead of “players only meetings”, how about we start calling them “No coaches allowed meetings”? Just to change it up.

3. Can you imagine the hyperbole and nonsense that must go on in these players only meetings? They’re always called out of desperation, and you can bet they’re a fantastic opportunity for veteran players to showcase their wisdom and passion for the game. And how about the clichés? An estimated 99.9 percent of players only meetings center around the theme of “us against the world” or “chip on our shoulder”.

4. Just once it’d be great to see a team broadcast its players only meeting live. A worthless 3-11 team could do it as a publicity stunt sometime. They could take the LeBron approach and put on a charitable front while scoring a primetime ESPN broadcast.

5. Finally, teams should have to report their players only meetings to the NFL so that the league can keep official statistics on how well players perform after having these meetings. Wouldn’t that be interesting? (Or at least kind of interesting?)

Said Torbor: "As far as specifics, I'd rather keep it between us. I think some things don't need to be put on display. It kind of loses its meaning once it goes from something that was heartfelt to something that was for publicity. And I don't want it to turn into that. But I will say it was something that I felt I'm one of the older guys here, and for the first time in my career we don't have those. Michael Strahans and Jason Taylors. I kind of woke up this morning and, whoa, I'm one of those guys now. I've been fortunate enough in my career to play with Hall of Fame guys and guys who have done things the right way. I'm not even talking about on the field. I'm talking about off the field. I've learned from them and just relayed some of those messages that I've learned over the years to them about just being a professional. Coming to work every day and not taking this for granted. Everybody thinks they'll play 10 years in this league coming out of college and it just doesn't work that way. You never know what day is gonna be your last. ... So having a young team I thought that was important."

Said RB Fred Jackson: "We did have a team meeting where it was just players only. We kinda talked amongst ourselves on what we needed to do to get things turned around. I don't think it's negative around here. We're not happy with where we are. But I think we're focused on trying to turn that around. ... Reggie Torbor was one of the main guys talking. He was just talking about being on that team with the Giants and how they had to turn that around. A lot of guys took a lot out of it. This being the bye week I think we'll get some good work in. ... It wasn't just a negative meeting. It was a positive meeting, too. ... We have to prepare even this week like it's a game week."

Said QB Ryan Fitzpatrick: "We had a couple of the older guys step up and get some stuff off their chest. I think it was good just to clear the air a little bit. We've got a bye week. We've got to refocus and re-evaluate where we are right now. ... It's one thing to listen to the coaches talk but to hear some of your peers talk and really from the heart. Guys that have been around it for a while, kind of pouring out their feelings and what they think it's gonna take to turn the thing around."


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Posted on: October 2, 2010 11:19 pm
Edited on: October 2, 2010 11:20 pm
 

Kelly changes mind about Trent Edwards - again

Jim Kelly wrote that Buffalo's move to release T. Edwards was the right move (Getty). Posted by Josh Katzowitz

You’ve got to love Jim Kelly’s ability to flip-flop-flip when it comes to talking about the Bills starting quarterback.

In July, Kelly talked about how he wanted Trent Edwards to beat out Ryan Fitzpatrick and Brian Brohm to grab the Buffalo starting job. Which would have been fine, except for eight months earlier when Kelly told USA Today, "I like Trent personally. He works hard. But he's had three years. It's time to find somebody who is the future of the Buffalo Bills. If I'm the owner, that's what I'm thinking."

So the Jim Kelly of 2009 was in complete disagreement with the Jim Kelly of 2010 about whether Edwards was the right fit for the Bills. Until, rather predictably the Kelly of 2009 reemerged today and said the decision to replace Edwards with Fitzpatrick – and I assume the decision the Bills made to release Edwards entirely – was the move that had to be made.

Writing for the Bills official site, Kelly pens the following in his lede paragraph:

“They had given Trent (Edwards) many, many opportunities and it just didn’t work. I tip my hat to Chan Gailey for doing it and not waiting until later on. Trent is a good guy and a friend and unfortunately it just didn’t work out for him. I wish him nothing but the best of luck, but sometimes players need a fresh start and a different atmosphere. Hopefully this is something that will benefit Trent moving on to another team.”

Kelly continues by praising Fitzpatrick, though he admits he doesn’t know if the Bills new starter is the team’s quarterback of the future. Then, by complimenting Fitzpatrick he manages to insult Edwards – who’s now in Jacksonville.

“I definitely saw positive things that I wasn’t seeing from Trent. The good thing is Ryan is not afraid to throw the ball in there and take chances. Unfortunately two of those chances he took at New England didn’t work out for him and they resulted in turnovers. But at least it’s the right approach where he’s not afraid to stick the ball in there and take a chance to make a big play. You have to get defenses to respect you arm and respect your passing game before you can even be successful.

"Any time defensive backs are hunkered down and they don’t have to worry about the deep throw, they’re going to be right on the ball every time. They’re going to be making breaks on the ball and defensive backs won’t be in their full backpedal. Unfortunately for the Bills the opposing defensive backs weren’t worried about the deep throw much. They were making quick breaks on the ball and taking advantage of it.”

And just in case Kelly changes his mind, he hedges his bets later in his post by writing that it wouldn’t be a terrible idea to get Brohm some playing time as well.

Now we wait for the Jim Kelly of 2011 to dismiss Fitzpatrick and endorse Brohm as the starter. 

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The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com